April 19, 2010. SCW launched protest against the       L-R: Rebecca Chato of BLR;Dir. Eli E. Ricote  OIC-GTID;    
passage of the Save our Industry Act.
                        Mr. Tuomo Poutianen, Chief Technical Advisor of BFC &
                                                                                                 ILO; Sec. Rosalinda Baldoz o
f DoLE & Mr. Andrew J. 
                                                                                                       Samet Partner Of Sorini & Samet Associate

                                                  Ms. Merly Grafe, chairperson of SCW behind Mr. Andrew Samet-
                                                            the participants' group picture after the conference

Solidarity of Cavite Workers (SCW) Chairperson Merly Grafe attended the labor sector-wide Promotion of Save Act to Local Stakeholders on August 20, 2010 at the Occupational Safety and Health Center, Diliman Quezon City.

 “I was riding with high hopes on my way to the activity that our appeal letter on April 19, 2010 to the Confederation of Garment Exporters Of the Philippines (CONGEP) already gained attention for a public dialog regarding the Save Our Industries Act being pushed in the United States Congress, “ Grafe said in an interview.

In the SCW statement dated April 19, 2010, Grafe stressed that in Cavite one of the worst violators of workers’ rights and promoter of the ‘No Union, No Strike’ Policy are garment-producing companies such as the cases of union busting and violent actions against unionist in Wal-Mart supplier Chong Won Fashions, Inc. and Phils Jeon Garment, Inc. in the Cavite Export Processing Zone (CEPZ) and Golden Will Fashion, Inc. in the First Cavite Industrial Estate (FCIE). She also said that SCW cannot just let the bill pass unnoticed because the main lobbyist for its passage are the Confederation Garment Exporters of the Philippines (CONGEP) and the Philippine government whose human and labor rights records are both poor and beyond international standards approval.

Ms. Grafe added that she was disappointed after the activity due to several reasons. “In behalf of the SCW and the workers, we are saddened after realizing the activity was not really intended to discuss to the workers the bill filed in the US Congress but only to promote it like the title of the activity suggests. Second, the labor sector-wide activity had most of its participating organizations coming from the National Capital Region (NCR) among which were Trade Union of the Philippines (TUCP), Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL), and Federation of Free Workers (FFW). And lastly, the open forum only gave way for three questions to the panel,” she continued in dismay.

When asked the significance of the bill to the workers, Grafe stressed, “it is very important that a provision for the safety and protection of the workers in the garments industry including sanctions to employers who violate thereof. I, myself, was a garment factory worker before so, I know the conditions inside such production plants. Likewise, how could a program alleviate working conditions if foreign employers are violating local labor laws and international labor conventions that suppose to protect the workers?

SCW emphasized the need for punitive provisions in the bill against erring employers of the garments plants in the Philippines in their April 19 statement. Their proposition also complemented parallel efforts of the Washington DC – based International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) for the inclusion of the workers’ rights provision and protection mechanisms such as a Labor Ombudsman.

Closing the interview, the SCW Chairperson beams with optimism, “I hope that this would not be the last and a public dialog regarding the Save Our Industries Act would commence as soon as possible among the widest number of workers-stakeholders as possible.

The activity, which the Clothing and Textile Industry Tripartite Council (CTITC) sponsored, commenced at 8:00 in the morning with the opening remarks of Executive Director Lucita P. Reyes of the Department of Industry - Garments and Textile Industry Development Office (DTI – GTIDO).

Resource persons in the event were Ms. Margarita Dela Rama, President of the Garments Business Association of the Philippines (GBAP), Mr. Toumo Poutianen, Chief Technical Advisor of the Better Factories Cambodia (BFC) of the International Labor Organization (ILO), Director Eli E. Ricote, Officer-in-Charge of the (GTIDO), and Mr. Andrew J. Samet, Partner of the Sorini, Samet, and Associates (SS&A).

Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) summed up the event at 4:15 in the afternoon.